(image Rain Dove)
Givenchy Insensé, 1993. Perfumer Daniel Molière.
Is it a truism that a masculine floral is doomed to failure? Insensé was released as a men’s fragrances. Would it have been released as a feminine fragrance? Unisex? Is there a gender for whom Insensé would have worked in the marketplace. The masculine/floral truism tells us that perfume is limited or reduced for masculine target marketing. In perfumery, the strategy of gender targeting is to aim for the wide height of the bell curve. The glut of bad masculine aquatics and nauseating feminine gourmands that followed Insensé tells you how little perfume manufacturers think of all of us.
The layering in Insensé is spectacular. High to low: galbanum & aldehyde, lily of the valley and basil, amber and cedar. And of course, the real point: magnolia. The creamy magnolia makes Insensé a neo-tropical perfume. ‘Tropical’ in perfume has as much to do with specific notes (tiare, guava and the like) as a particular modulation of temperature and moisture. Insensé may not have hibiscus and coconuts in it, but it is humid, juicy and luminously warm in the manner that suggests a tropical environment.
Maybe Insensé didn’t fail because it was a floral for men, but because it had the complexity and nuance of classical perfumery. It was launched into a market that was being groomed for mediocrity, at exactly the point where Cool gave way to Sport. It didn’t stand a chance.